ring the bells

Apr 23, 2020

“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in”
Leonard Cohen

Since television arrived in Ireland in the early 1960’s a sixty-second clip has featured daily at 6.00pm. The brief feature (link below) is the slow tolling of a bell with images of people stopping work, taking a moment to be still, to ponder, to pray as the bell tolls the distinctive ring-rhythm of the Angelus.

Eighteen months ago as voters exited the booths at the 2018 Irish election, an exit poll was taken asking if the daily 6.00pm broadcast of the “Angelus Bells” should continue on the national broadcasting network RTE.

The poll result was overwhelming support for this daily custom.

This Angelus bell has for centuries reminded Christians around the world to pause in schools and workplaces, in farm fields and in homes to pray remembering the Incarnation: God in Jesus is with us.

One viewer commented at the time of the Ireland poll: “To the person of faith, it’s a moment of grace; to the person without faith, it’s a moment of peace. What’s not to like?”

The tradition of church bells ringing no longer all that common. The distinctive Angelus ring is almost never heard and the sound of the Sunday church bell seems like a quaint nostalgia.

During these lockdown weeks the few remaining church bells have been silenced as churches wait with closed doors. Perhaps the shift to Level 3 next week, while not opening churches, might permit a bell-ringer to enter?

Ring the bells that still can ring!

I’m reminded of an interview with Leonard Cohen a few years ago. He was asked about how crises in life often prompt new and necessary life-changes. The interviewer was especially interested in Cohen’s calm acceptance of the news that his former manager had stolen all of his money. The interviewer questioned him: “Does life-change have to be forced?” Cohen replied: “I think so… It is clear that it is only catastrophe that encourages people to make a change…”  (full interview at this link)

I don’t agree completely with Cohen since often significant change can happen as a result of gentle discernment. But I take his point – unwelcome catastrophe does provide a great opportunity for reassessment of priorities.

Many commentators these days are reflecting that the coronavirus is the kind of catastrophe that provides an opportunity for change.

You’ll be getting sick of my quotes from the homily given for the pope on Good Friday, but permit me one more. Fr. Cantalamessa suggests “It took merely the smallest and most formless element of nature, a virus, to remind us that we are mortal, that military power and technology are not sufficient to save us”

I get the sense watching the Irish TV Angelus clip (at this link) that something as small as the ringing of a bell may have been enough to give people a lift from the anxieties and burdens of their days at their desks, factories, fields and homes.

Wouldn’t it be great if the bells that still can ring, do ring!

Let’s start a movement: 12 noon and 6.00pm any church bells that can ring, do ring, perhaps using the simple God-is-with-us ring of the Angelus Bell – the traditional distinctive toll pattern: 1.2.3. – 1.2.3. – 1.2.3. –

I’m hoping that this daily bell-ringing suggestion goes viral, a new idea, a hope-filled virus providing an audible ring of hope in our neighbourhoods.

“To the person of faith, it’s a moment of grace;
to the person without faith, it’s a moment of peace.
What’s not to like?”

An Invitation:

  • 12 minute Interview with Leonard Cohen at this link.
  • You might like to download an Angelus App complete with ringing bells. The one I use is at this link: Angelus App.
  • The daily Angelus on Irish TV is at this link.
  • I have used the image of the bell tower on the Lectio Divina links below. If you take a cell phone picture of a bell tower near where you live and send to me I’ll use your images on these pages. Just email the pic with name of church and town – john@fff.org.nz



Two options – the second longer form includes two readings of the gospel passage and longer periods of silence.

Thursday Easter Week II  (15 minutes)

Thursday Easter Week II  (25 minutes)


  1. Thank you for the link to Leonard Cohens interview, he is someone I have listened to for many many years, I love his wisdom…
    Also for the link to the Angelus bells, unfortunately in Christchurch not a lot of bell towers around, but maybe the tolling of phones with the App you suggested will suffice!
    God bless you all today

  2. A wonderful suggestion, Father –
    “Let the Bells ring out!”

  3. During Easter week, Father John permitted the bells to ring as a reminder to pray the Angelus.Even though I was a fair distance away,I could hear them.It was a moment of comfort and reflection for prayer .

  4. I have been privileged t0 hear Leonard Cohen live in concert in New Zealand, not once, not twice, but three times. Another trinity even. His mystical wisdom cuts through the clutter and strikes a message home; ‘that’s how the light gets in’. I live near St Paul’s Anglican church in Papanui, the bells were a constant reminder on Sunday mornings, and Tuesday nights. Your message today struck close to home not once, not twice, but three times. Another trinity.

  5. Thank you, Father John, for the moments of grace this morning …

    The Bell Tower picture, Reflection, Scripture, Father Cantalmessa’s Homily, The tolling of a bell, The Angelus, Irish nostalgia, Leonard Cohen, God the Son, Self Awareness, Stillness and Silence, Holy Spirit, Hopefulness …
    For me, our morning prayer resembles a basket of gourmet fruitfulness.

    I am reminded of the words of Henri J M Nouwen,
    “What brings us true joy is not successfulness but fruitfulness”.


  6. Haven’t thought about the Angelus for a while. When I was at school no matter what we were doing – even in the middle of a science experiment – we stopped and said the Angelus. Although we are not angels (well I certainly am not) perhaps the Annunciation of the Good News is a characteristic of those of us ‘of faith’?

    Bless you John

  7. Now more than ever, Let the Bells Ring


  8. The parish of St John the Evangelist in Otara, South Auckland begins each day (6am)with the ringing of the Angelus on the Church bell.

  9. In Jesus God is with us . God is among us. God is real. God is here. Thank you Fr John for the links that stretches the desire to know, understand , feels , listens and experiences that in Jesus God is here and amongst us.

  10. Thank you for your references to the homily at Easter from Rome. I love the wisdom, hope and guidance these excerpts provide us. I can so easily let the miracle of Easter slip from view, I appreciate these reminders. God bless your ministry Father John. I am encouraged and draw closer to God as a result of your daily reflections.


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